Woman emerges from 101 wreck to be struck by suspected drunk driver

SUMMERLAND — A curvaceous stretch of Santa Barbara highway, as scenic as it is potentially treacherous, was the site of a wreck that left one woman critically injured and another in jail last week.

It was at this location on June 3 at 10:45 p.m. that a Jeep Wrangler driven by Christina Halstead of Hollister was reported by witnesses to have struck the steel Caltrans center divider on its descent down the hill just north of Sheffield Drive. The Wrangler immediately overturned, landing on its roof. According to witnesses at the scene, and as reported by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s and responding CHP officers, Halstead quickly removed herself from under the vehicle, climbed over the freeway’s two-foot-high center dividers and attempted to cross the southbound 101 lanes.

CHP spokesman Larry Hockman recorded in the official incident report that the first officers responding to a series of 911 calls saw Halstead stumble and fall into the southbound slow lane whereupon a 2005 Honda Civic struck her, hesitated, and then drove off headed toward Carpinteria.

While these first arriving units controlled traffic and attended to Halstead, additional responders pursued the Honda and subsequently found it in a disabled condition on a Carpinteria street. It was determined that the driver, Nicole Ladin, 34, had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. She was booked on DUI and felony hit-and-run charges, and remains in Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $100,000.

Halstead remains in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in critical condition.

The stretch of U.S. 101 northbound in Summerland, between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara at a hill known as Ortega Ridge, has been the scene of serious vehicular mayhem over the past several years, including multiple car pileups, gas tanker truck explosions, cars and trucks flying off bridges and onto adjacent bike paths, and more than one gang-related felony car chase.

The two-lane road parallels both the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way and pristine beaches lying to the immediate west. As the freeway runs north out of Carpinteria and through Summerland, it climbs Montecito’s Ortega Hill, rising above the sea by more than a hundred feet. Continuing northward, the highway plunges back down to sea level in what can be an unexpected drop in elevation to the unfamiliar nighttime traveler.


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